2 Utah state work­ers un­der scru­tiny in leak of ‘im­mi­grants’ list

Austin American-Statesman - - SATURDAYBRIEFING - By Brock Vergakis

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah of­fi­cials said Fri­day that they have iden­ti­fied at least two state work­ers who ap­par­ently ac­cessed con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments to cre­ate a list of 1,300 pur­ported il­le­gal im­mi­grants that was mailed to law en­force­ment of­fi­cials and the news me­dia.

Gov. Gary Her­bert said the em­ploy­ees work for the Depart­ment of Work­force Ser­vices, which ad­min­is­ters food stamp pro­grams and other pub­lic ben­e­fits. The em­ploy­ees have been placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave, and the state at­tor­ney gen­eral will de­ter­mine whether to file crim­i­nal charges.

“It’s a very small group. The peo­ple we’ve iden­ti­fied cer­tainly have some strong po­lit­i­cal opin­ions and seem to be frus­trated with some of the is­sues around im­mi­gra­tion,” said Kris­ten Cox, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for the depart­ment. “I think it’s an im­mense hypocrisy to talk about tak­ing peo­ple to task for be­ing il­le­gal and do­ing so by break­ing the law.”

Cox said most of the peo­ple are on the list be­cause their chil­dren are re­ceiv­ing aid.

The list that was mailed con­tains So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers, birth dates, work­places, ad­dresses and phone num­bers. Names of chil­dren are in­cluded, along with due dates of preg­nant women.

News­pa­pers started re­ceiv­ing the list of names and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion this week, and the en­su­ing pub­lic­ity cre­ated wide­spread fear in the His­panic com­mu­nity. The anony­mous mail­ing said it also was sent to im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials.

The senders, who called them­selves Concerned Cit­i­zens of the United States, de­manded that those on the list be de­ported, al­though some named have said they are in the coun­try legally.

“This tac­tic by these rogue em­ploy­ees to go out and to sin­gle out in­di­vid­u­als and their fam­i­lies, in some cases falsely ac­cus­ing peo­ple of an il­le­gal sta­tus, is in fact de­plorable,” Her­bert said.

Cox said there might be a few more peo­ple im­pli­cated in the leak of the names, but she’s con­fi­dent that the core group that is re­spon­si­ble has been iden­ti­fied.

In­ten­tion­ally re­leas­ing a pri­vate record in Utah is a mis­de­meanor pun­ish­able by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If some­one stole such a record, it could be pros­e­cuted as a felony with a penalty pun­ish­able by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

“We will be­gin an im­me­di­ate, ag­gres­sive, for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Utah At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Shurtl­eff promised Fri­day on a con­fer­ence call with na­tional and lo­cal His­panic lead­ers.

Shurtl­eff said he would seek the help of the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice. “We’re talk­ing se­ri­ous, felony-level crimes,” he said.

His­panic ad­vo­cates ap­plauded how quickly the state has acted to find the source of the leak.

“The gover­nor took the first step to­day to bring that trust back again,” said Tony Yapias, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of His­panic Af­fairs.

Jef­frey D. Allred As­so­ci­Ated Press

Utah Gov. Gary Her­bert and Work­force Ser­vices chief Kris­ten Cox crit­i­cized the em­ploy­ees who re­vealed the in­for­ma­tion.

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